By Ashley Davis
“We live in north Jersey, which is a complete diamond landscape,” said Nancy Schuring, founder of Devon Fine Jewelry and colored gemstone enthusiast.
Wyckoff, N.J.--In 50 Jewelers/50 States, National Jeweler interviews one retailer in each of the 50 U.S. states to find out how they are meeting the challenges of the changing retail environment.

Like most jewelry stores, diamond bridal jewelry makes up the lion’s share of Devon Fine Jewelry’s business. Owner Nancy Schuring serves her bridal customer while also acting as a destination for colored gemstone lovers.

“We have gem roundtables two times a year where Roger Dery, an award-winning faceter, brings his gemstones,” Schuring explained. “People get to see and touch and handle colored gemstones that they’ve never heard of before. We’re very much into education at our store, sharing knowledge and sharing enthusiasm for color. Color is a big part of what we do.”

Schuring talked to National Jeweler about staying true to one’s brand identity, the challenge of creating a knowledgeable team and how word-of-mouth has changed over the years she’s been in business.

National Jeweler: What’s the biggest challenge your store is facing?

Nancy Schuring: I think the biggest challenge is finding really good employees for the team. I run the store with a great team of motivated, creative people, but it’s very challenging to find those employees. You’d think in an economy that’s been a little bit softer that we wouldn’t have such trouble finding people, but I think the biggest challenge is personnel.

For our particular store we have three categories of merchandise. One is bridal, and knowledge of diamonds isn’t something that people have at their fingertips. Finding experienced diamond people who share your ethics is challenging.

The second prong of our business is custom design. We’re known in the area for redesigning diamonds and gemstones that customers already own. Our employees don’t have to be artists but they have to be a little bit creative to see the possibilities.

The third area we concentrate on in our store is colored gemstones. We’ve carved out our niche with colored gemstones. We carry over 100 different colored gemstone varieties. We don’t expect anyone to walk in with that knowledge, we do teach, but a little knowledge would be welcomed.

Unfortunately, we need a little bit more than the typical jewelry salespeople have to offer.

20170825 NewJersey insert1Devon Fine Jewelry, located in Wyckoff, New Jersey, is a 2,000-square-foot store with 11 employees. Owner Nancy Schuring started the business in 1977 as a side job from her regular work as a high school teacher.
NJ: What’s the top-selling category and brand at your store?

NS: Of the three categories I mentioned, the dollars of course are in bridal. Our best brand for mountings at the moment is A. Jaffe. We’ve increased our business tremendously with that.

NJ: Describe your customer for me.

NS: Bridal customers in north Jersey are usually young couples in their 30s with good jobs, some professionals. They’re quality oriented. That’s who we see day in and day out.

We also see the self-purchasing women, who are single or married, in their 30s to 60s. They’re interested in treating themselves and increasing their jewelry collection. They’re interested in redesigning their bridal rings, 20 or 25 years later. That woman makes up a big part of our customer (demographic).

Then we have the people who we educate about color, and they become collectors. They get bitten by the colored stone bug. That customer does cross over to the self-purchasing woman. We have some men, too, who are interested in gemstones, though not as many as women.

NJ: What’s the most popular style of engagement ring with your clientele now?

NS: For us right now it’s white gold or platinum. It’s a shared prong, delicate shank with a four-prong head, maybe with detail, maybe with a little bezel stone, maybe with diamonds in the prongs, but very simple, classic; that’s our best-seller.

We also carry Noam Carver, Peter Storm and Michael Bondanza, so we’re offering quite different designers.

NJ: What’s the most popular diamond shape in bridal?

NS: Round. Some cushions. We sell the Fire Cushion. And some ovals are popular, too, but the round is the overwhelming majority of the market.

NJ: Which social media accounts are important to your business?

NS: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are our three mainstays.

NJ: Do you have e-commerce?

NS: You can make a shopping cart on our site, we do have inventory on there, but we don’t complete the sale via e-commerce. It allows you to contact us, and then we can finish up the sale.

NJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer to other independent jewelry stores?

NS: Keep up with the styles and the trends, of course, but we have found that the Google reviews or any online reviews that you can get are very important. That’s really helped us quite a bit.

We have excellent reviews. It’s almost every other day that someone comes in and says they’ve seen our reviews. It’s a big boost to business. We used to call it word-of-mouth, and it’s just a different form of word-of-mouth, a different format. I think most jewelers would tell you that word-of-mouth are the best referrals and you can still get them, but as online reviews.

The other thing I would say to jewelers is be true to who you are. Don’t try to change your persona. If you’ve been successful, be true and keep going in your direction but employ the new media and tools that are available now.

NJ: What’s a fun fact about you we can share with our readers?

NS: In 2008 we started the Devon Foundation, as the result of a gem buying trip in Africa. We saw the poverty in these African countries where they mine the gems. (It inspired us) to start a scholarship program and we’ve given a couple of dozen for gem cutting.

We travel to Africa every couple of years. On one trip to Tanzania we saw a school frequented by Maasai tribesmen and the lunch program had been discontinued so the kids weren’t going to school. Now we feed 450 kids lunch every day. It’s really exciting. To get the logistics down we were very lucky--we had the right friends in places that allow us to monitor the program from afar.

Our customers love to hear about it and they love being part of something so unique and so good.

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